Monteverde – on top of the world
This past weekend I had Friday off, so we went to Monteverde, which is basically a national park on top of a mountain in Costa Rica. There was so much to do there – we could have spent a week and still not have gotten to everything. It is a 5-hour bus ride from San Jose, and the bus left at 6:30 on Friday morning, so I got up at 3:45 to get there on time. WAY too early, but definitely worth it.
On Friday afternoon we went for a hike in the Cloud Forest. It was absolutely gorgeous. The trails were clear enough that we couldn’t have gotten off the trail, but narrow enough that it really felt like you were walking through a forest. Everything was really, really green. Also, when it rains, the plants like moss and leaves capture the water drops, which made everything glisten. When we got to the overlook viewpoint, I felt like I was on top of the world. There were tree-covered mountains and valleys as far as you could see, and we were literally in the clouds (hence the name, Cloud Forest). It was magical.
Saturday was an action-packed day. First, we did the Extremo Canopy Tour, which included 13 long ziplines, rappelling down a 70-foot tree, a Tarzan swing (which was enhanced by a family of monkeys in a nearby tree), and the Superman zipline (exactly what it sounds – they attach your feet and your waist to the zipline so you are facing the ground). My favorite out of all of this was the Superman, because it was really long with an incredible view and, once again, right through clouds.
After ziplining, we had a quick lunch and dashed off to Canyoning, which is basically rappelling down waterfalls. That was quite difficult, but absolutely incredible. After a few warm-up waterfalls, we rappelled down a 114-foot waterfall. It was challenging because the rocks were slippery, and more than once I slammed into the side of a rock. The other thing was, we were soaking wet, and it was raining (which, they assured us, is perfectly safe unless there is lightning), and so it was really cold. But worth every penny, for sure.
Finally, Saturday night we went on a night hike. Our guide was super-knowledgeable and very passionate about the plants and animals in the forest. The hike wasn’t pre-planned, because they don’t really know ahead of time where the animals are going to be. So we just walked through the forest, with him looking in the trees with his flashlight, and if he saw something he would gather us around and we would talk about it. Or, if we passed another tour group or if he got a call on his walkie-talkie, we would book it through the forest to wherever the animal was spotted. We saw walking stick bugs, praying mantis, leaf-cutter ants, a possum, a sloth, a porcupine (which live in trees, not on the ground), toucans, a brown jay, a few other birds, some bats, a wasp nest, a tree-killing tree, a frog, and a huge tarantula (plus its skin that it had just shed). I must be forgetting a few, but for a 2-hour hike, we saw a lot! Oh, and glow-in-the-dark mushrooms!
Monteverde is a really unique place. For obvious reasons, there are a lot of tourists, and for that they are very organized and visitor-friendly. For all of our events on Saturday, we were picked up and dropped off at our hostel door and driven to each event. It makes it really easy to plan what to do when they take care of the details for you. That being said, Monteverde still felt very authentic. The activities we did were strenuous – there were really long uphill hikes between zipline platforms, the hiking trails were certainly not easy, and waterfall rappelling is really hard work! It was good to get out of Heredia for a little while and Monteverde was unforgettable.